Saturday, August 29, 2015

Virginia Creeper Trail: Damascus to the North Carolina State Line

This trip was sort-of a mistake. On Wednesday I felt so sick I called out of work. I felt especially bad that evening, curled up and shivering on the couch. On Thursday I felt well enough to go to work. On Friday I felt even better. I figured today I would feel great. It turned out that I did not feel great today, but because I had made the long drive up to Damascus, I did not want to bail on my plan.

I arrived at the parking lot at the town park in Damascus, set up my bike and hit the trail. The journey began with a ride through town. Finally, I headed out of the city limits and into the woods.
leaving Damascus
I passed a large pile of railroad ties
railroad ties
and began following (and occasionally crossing over) Whitetop Laurel Creek. 
creek 2
Soon I entered into the Jefferson National Forest and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
entering Mount Rogers NRA
I slowly passed by the old concrete mile markers as I steadily climbed.
mile marker 22
I was pretty tired just 7 miles into my ride and so I stopped at a campsite along the creek.
creek 3
A beaver had gnawed a tree down and across the campfire ring.
beaver stump
I ate a snack and drank some water.

When I finally felt like moving again the climb felt even steeper. I crossed several more old trestle bridges
cardinal flower and trestle
and enjoyed the wildflowers that lined the trail.
wildflowers
Soon the trail crossed through some meadow areas.
trail through meadow
When I had last ridden this section of trail, 15 years ago, it seems there were more cow pastures than there are today. When I arrived at a Christmas tree farm,
Christmas trees
I feel my suspicions were confirmed. I definitely remember there being pastures there before.

I arrived at Green Cove station,
Green Cove
extremely tired and out of water. Unfortunately, I discovered the nearest water was at Whitetop Station, about 3 miles up the line. I continued on. Getting over my recent illness and dealing with dehydration since I had run out of water made for some slow riding. Embarrassingly, I even had to walk for a short distance due to my thighs cramping up. I was relieved to finally arrive at Whitetop Station.
Whitetop Station
I immediately headed inside for some water and rested on the grass outside for a bit.
relaxing at Whitetop

When I felt recovered, I decided to ride the trail to its official end at the North Carolina border, not quite a mile further on. The ride to the state boundary was actually one of the more interesting sections of trail. It seems to be seldom traveled. I passed by a pond in a meadow
pond and meadow
and some wonderful wildflowers.
two flowers
ironweed
I let my front tire touch North Carolina soil
end of trail
and then turned around. It would be really interesting if some day the state of North Carolina continued the trail in their state. What would be really interesting is if some day the trail could be linked with the old Tweetsie line to form long mega-trail through Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. I'm sure there's a long gap between where the two lines end, but one can dream.

I made my way back to Whitetop Station, passing mile marker 34.
mile marker 34
The rest of the ride is really a blur. It went very fast, being downhill. I did stop to check out a nice view from the top of another Christmas Tree farm
Christmas tree and view
and then later at a small waterfall on Whitetop Laurel Creek.
cascades
Otherwise, the trip back to the car took 1/4 the time the trip up had taken.

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